Ryan Wrecker (@RyanWrecker)By Ryan Wrecker

Conservatives are also fighting for net neutrality… and you should to.

Don’t get caught up into making this a partisan issue.  An overwhelming majority of people support net neutrality… to the tune of 83% favor the CURRENT laws and did not want the FCC to repeal.  However those comments were ignored, and the FCC voted last week 3-2 to repeal net neutrality.

Net Neutrality is designed to be consumer and privacy friendly, as well as opening the door for internet service companies to compete by allowing them access to the established infrastructures.  If you’re interested in reading what protections are going away, here is the actual law that was passed in 2015.

I have many issues with this, and the first being that with the repeal of net neutrality, it easily allows for low levels of censorship… leading to even more drastic instances.  Your Internet Service Provider will be allowed, without threat of FCC intervention, to slow or block websites you visit.  It also means they may can be used as a gatekeeper to your access.  If you’re a company they can also use this as a way to prevent other people from seeing your content.  Think about what websites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter have done to conservative voices.  They have been (rightfully) accused of hiding and failing to allow conservative websites or viewpoints to trend on their platforms.  It means when you log into those sites, they have the ability to heavily lean their news to liberal websites and viewpoints.  NOW imagine if your internet provider had the same power to control the content of the internet based.

The internet shouldn’t be treated like a platform that you have no control over — this is NOT in your best interest.

I want  you to see what the FCC voted to dissolve.  Here’s what will go away:  

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Here’s the bare bones of what Net Neutrality protects for the consumer, voted on by the FCC to discontinue: 

  • No Blocking. Consumers who subscribe to a retail broadband Internet access service must get what they have paid for—access to all (lawful) destinations on the Internet.
  • No Throttling. The 2010 open Internet rule against blocking contained an ancillary prohibition against the degradation of lawful content… 
  •  No Paid Prioritization.  Paid prioritization occurs when a broadband provider accepts payment (monetary or otherwise) to manage its network in a way that benefits particular content,applications, services,or devices.

  • No-Unreasonable Interference/Disadvantage Standard.  In addition to these three bright-line rules, we also set forth a no-unreasonable interference/disadvantage standard, under which the Commission can prohibit practices that unreasonably interfere with the ability of consumers or edge providers to select, access, and use broadband Internet access service to reach one another, thus causing harm to the open Internet. 

Few other key parts of the bill make it so internet service providers are transparent when it comes to their advertising, and they must disclose pricing and changes clearly to the customer.  These protections were voted to go away, and your internet service provide can choose to violate those with no consequence.

Here’s a key privacy part of the bill the FCC voted to discontinue:

  • Section 222: Protecting Consumer Privacy.  Ensuring the privacy of customer information both directly protects consumers from harm and eliminates consumer concerns about using the Internet that could deter broadband deployment. Among other things, section 222 imposes a duty on every telecommunications carrier to take reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of its customers’ proprietary information.  Example: the Commission (cited in 2015) took enforcement action under section 222 (and section 201(b)) against two telecommunications companies that stored customers’ personal information, including social security numbers, on unprotected, unencrypted Internet servers publicly accessible using a basic Internet search.  This unacceptably exposed these consumers to the risk of identity theft and other harms.

When there’s no privacy protection, your internet service provider will be allowed to sell your information.  Fortunately there’s other laws in place that will prevent them from doing this and attaching it to you specifically, BUT unfortunately it’s not that hard to link your data back to you, especially if you’re looking for it.  Should your internet provider be allowed to violate your privacy and sell your internet track record??

Here’s the part that will actually make it harder for competition in your area:

  • Section 224 of the Act governs the Commission’s regulation of pole attachments. In particular, section 224(f)(1) requires utilities to provide cable system operators and telecommunications carriers the right of “nondiscriminatory access to any pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way owned or controlled” by a utility.  Access to poles and other infrastructure is crucial to the efficient deployment of communications networks including, and perhaps especially, new entrants

Why is that important?  When the bill was written, 45% of households have only a single provider option for 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband service, indicating that nearly HALF of all households in the United States do not have any choices to switch to at this critical level of service.  There needs to be more competition, but if the possibility of getting new providers in your area are blocked by telecom companies, it makes it nearly impossible for any new infrastructure to come into your area. 

Plus, Motherboard reported “More than 100 Million Americans Can Only Get Internet Service from Companies That Have Violated Net Neutrality.” There’s not a lot you can do if there’s no competition.

When competition is blocked from servicing areas, you lose.  The FCC is now trying to make it harder for new service providers to reach larger areas by discriminating access.  Essentially, one large cable company could (and many have) cut a deal with your city to allow themselves exclusive access.  Again – this is anti-competitive by nature.

Here’s the protection that is going away that would allow your internet service provider to censor you / your company: 

  • 143. Free Expression: As Congress has recognized, the Internet “offer[s] a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.”  Practices that threaten the use of the Internet as a platform for free expression would likely unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage consumers’ and edge providers’ ability to use BIAS to communicate with each other, thereby causing harm to that ability. Further, such practices would dampen consumer demand for broadband services, disrupting the virtuous cycle, and harming end user and edge provider use of the Internet under the legal standard we set forth today

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HERE’S what I think will happen next: 

  1. Nothing at first… internet companies will debate what rules they’ll start to violate without telling you, knowing the FCC will not enforce any violations.
  2. ISP will try to convince you this is a good thing by adding certain services that do not go against your data packages.  (For example, they’ll start to promote heavy that due to a deal made with organizations like the NFL allowing streaming games without going against your data package, or they may pave the way for the streaming games to be prioritized.)
  3. Internet providers start to make more deals like the example above, prioritizing some sites over others.
  4. Internet providers will further tier their service into low-end packages.  They’ll make the “old lady” package, allowing for just e-mail and ranging up to full access, which is essentially what you have now.  They’ll charge a higher premium for the full package.  With no regulation to maintain a faster broadband, they will not try to upgrade any infrastructure at this point in areas where they’re already blocking access to other providers.
  5. They’ll use the tier system as a way to justify censorship of content that’s controversial, and use this as a way to inject their own social justice standards.  Much like you see when a satellite provider has a ‘dispute’ with local channels, you’ll see “We’re currently negotiating with this website, and it’s currently under review” warnings begin to appear.  This is when most people on the internet will wake up to the nature of internet censorship.

 

So what happens next?  Good article from Tech Crunch here.  Essentially, not a lot will happen immediately.  But you can start to see some of the effects now since the FCC will most likely walk away from any enforcing of the rules, meaning some Internet Service Providers may start to breach some of these regulations without you even knowing it.

If you value free speech, and you think the internet is a place where it’s protected… you should be in favor of net neutrality.

If you value privacy… you should be in favor of net neutrality.

Reach me on Twitter – @RyanWrecker    or email ryan.wrecker@kmox.com

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